What Is Faith?

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things of unseen” (KJV). The NIV renders this verse, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.”  Faith is not nothing. It is the invisible substance or heavenly matter from which everything in the universe, seen and unseen is derived. Faith is critical because without it we cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6).  Four times in Scripture we are told that the just shall live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38) which means that faith is the prescribed way for every believer to live.  It is the law of the kingdom of God (Romans 3:27) and the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4-5).

What passes for faith these days, however, is too often presumption or wishful thinking.  God honors Bible faith, not presumption, so it is critical to understand the difference between presumption and faith, and how faith is developed and used.  F. F. Bosworth famously said, “Faith begins where the will of God is known.” To know the will of God we must know his Word.  Unless our believing God is based on the promises of his word, we will most likely be in presumption, and God is not obligated to honor our presumption because we are only authorized to believe what God has said.

To understand the difference between faith and presumption, suppose someone tells a friend you are going to take their family to Disney World.  What would mark this as faith and separate it from presumption is if you actually told that person you were going to take them to Disney World. They have no right to believe that if you never said that.  It’s the same way with the Word of God.  We can’t believe God for things he didn’t say. We just can make something up he didn’t say and declare we are believing God for that because real Bible faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 1:17).

Faith does begin where the will of God is known, but it does not end there. Faith begins where the will of God is known, but it is established in grace, energized by love, developed on a blueprint of hope, undergirded by patience, released by confession, made alive by action, activated by praise, and identified by joy. The process begins when the Holy Spirit creates a vivid picture on your heart of what can be based on the Word. As Jerry Savelle said, “The heart is the canvas, the Word is the paint, and the Holy Spirit is the artist.” The inner image of your heart affects your decisions, direction, and ultimately your destiny. Change that image and you change your future.  You can be assured that any picture painted on your heart by the Holy Spirit using the Word of God is always faith and never presumption. That’s something you should believe every time.

No Más!

unknownPanamanian professional boxer Roberto Duran is considered to be one of the greatest fighters in history earning championship belts in four different weight classes.  The boxing world called him respectfully “Hands of Stone” because of his punching power.  Ironically, he is best known for losing his punch and quitting right in the middle of his championship fight with Sugar Ray Leonard, exclaiming, “no más” or no more.  Instead of going out a champion, the way he lived most of his life, Duran ended his boxing career and hung up his gloves perceived by the boxing world as a quitter.

The pressure is on believers all over the world to do the same thing.  The enemy knows that we are more than conquerors through Jesus, that we are always led in triumph in Christ, and that we have the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.  He cannot defeat us so he focuses instead on trying to provoke us into quitting because he knows that he cannot win without our willful surrender.  He could never defeat you, affect your right standing with God, or ever get God not to love you, but he can and does do everything he can to get you to quit on your right believing and right living.  So, all over the body of Christ too many Christians and Christian leaders are hanging up their gloves and quitting their spouses, cutting off friends, leaving their churches, vacating their ministries, and bankrupting their destinies.  Why?  Because they became weary in doing good instead of holding on to the promise that they would reap in due season if they did not quit (Galatians 6:9).  They started to focus on the limited negative at the expense of all the positive.

Every assignment, every attack, every confrontation, every disappointment, every setback, every loss, every inspired criticism, every agenda, and every perceived slight is designed to get you to quit, because quitting gets you off the path of God, and that was the devil’s goal all along.  Quitting indicates a believer has become demonized and is under the influence of the enemy and captive to do his will.  Regardless of whether we do it in the thralls of discouragement, the depths of depression, a fit of anger or offense, or with an arrogant smile on our face, quitting in violation of God’s word and will is a clear indicator that the enemy has pushed our buttons long enough that our troubled minds and roller coaster emotions are now driving our decisions rather than the voice of the Holy Spirit.

In these challenging times, the Lord would have us keep punching, to never give in, and to never give up.  That’s why he commanded (not just encouraged) Joshua to not be discouraged (Joshua 1).  Discouragement is a loss of spiritual courage, and the loss of that courage always precedes quitting.  I know as a believer and Christian leader that there are times you just want to hang it up, but the Lord needs you in your place, your family needs you to be steady, the Church needs you to be stable, and the world desperately needs you to model the hope you profess.

When you feel like quitting (1) on purpose put off that decision to quit, (2) take the time to flood your heart with the word of God and prayer, (3) get around people who are uplifting, challenging, and encouraging, (4) refuse to make decisions based on negative feelings or thoughts, (5) and remember God NEVER forgets a seed sown.  No matter how things look, you WILL reap in due season IF you do not quit!

Heavenly Tweets

Mark RandallAs most of you know, my mentor and close personal friend Mark Randall went home to be with the Lord after a long battle with congestive heart failure (CHF).  While preparing for his memorial service, I began to write some tweets complete with hash-tags I imagined and know he we would say based on our 31 year friendship.  I sat in my office with tears in my eyes laughing as I wrote.  “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22, NIV).  I thought if the tweets made me smile and laugh, they might be a blessing to others.  I decided to include them in the memorial service as well as share them with you today.  May we all be as present, focused, and dedicated as Mark in his relationship with Jesus and his ministry…

To close today, I wanted to share a series of heavenly tweets I have received from mark since he went home to be with Jesus. Apparently, his tech savvy has grown and I want to share the tele-tweets with you today…

  • By now you know I’m gone – #I made it   #pain-free   #halleLUjah
  • Perfect sight – #no more lost reading glasses
  • Guess what – no need for money in heaven – #no more lost checkbook
  • Jesus is more amazing than I could ever imagine – #my king    #speechless
  • Heaven is so beautiful – #Grand Canyon is just a hole in the ground
  • Just saw Mom Dad and Jay – #family reunion    #so happy
  • Worshipped the Lord with Jerry and Tim – #my voice is aMAZing
  • Just corrected Apostle Stephen on some theology – #I’m always right
  • Just saw my reflection in the golden streets – #can you say “hot”
  • Ran into the thief on the cross – tried to get him saved again – #old habits die hard
  • Going to a banquet – #cheese    #mountains and mountains of cheese   #I feel like I’m in heaven    #cheese sandwiches
  • Tell my kids I love them – #the greatest group in the world    #world changers    #the purpose of my life
  • Tracy is the best sister ever – #amazing    #gone through so much    #strong and godly
  • Listen to Pastor Art – #greatest pastor in the world    #don’t make me come down there
  • Students don’t forget morning prayer – #7:14   #I will come find you
  • This service had better not last more than an hour – #didn’t you learn anything?
  • Heaven is real – it’s all real – #don’t miss it    #don’t miss it for anything    #help get everybody you can here.

Real Faith for Real Trouble

prison-barsMost Christians have a basic understanding of faith that includes the principle of justification by faith, and that by the grace of God.  A smaller number have learned that faith is a lifestyle and the prescribed way of living for the believer: “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).  It’s possible for a believer in the course of receiving teaching about the lifestyle of faith to come to the erroneous conclusion that if they simply had enough faith, no trouble would ever visit their life.  Unfortunately, the Scripture teaches just the opposite.  Jesus said boldly, “In this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  Mark chapter four states emphatically trouble comes because of the Word.  A balanced and accurate rendering of biblical faith must include the understanding that (1) faith attracts trouble into our lives, (2) faith sustains us in that trouble, (3) and faith delivers us from that trouble.  No, you are not a freak or an inferior Christian because you are going through a tough time.

The Bible is filled with stories of faithful servants who experienced trouble not due to a lack of faith, but because they were individuals of great faith demonstrating that faith through consecration to God and faithfulness.  Abel’s faith led to his demise at the hands of his own brother.  Daniel’s faith landed him in the lion’s den.  The three Hebrew boys were tossed into the fiery furnace because of their faith.  Joseph’s faith landed him in the pit.  David’s faith and the success it brought got him into trouble with the spear thrower known as King Saul.  While it’s true that our own behavior has often been the source of our trouble, it is also true that we can get into trouble for simply being faithful to God.

Paul and Silas were thrown into the inner core of prison and chained like violent criminals for bringing deliverance to a fortune-teller and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 16).  Imagine how you would respond if you were apprehended and jailed for doing nothing more than sharing your faith in Jesus Christ (foreign to American Christians but a very present realty around the world).  The amazing reaction and behavior of Paul and Silas in this story illustrate the proper way to handle the trouble that comes from being a person of faith.  When you find yourself in trouble because of your stand of faith, draw from their godly example.

First, make sure you maintain a good attitude in the midst of the situation.  It’s amazing we don’t see Paul and Silas whining, griping, or complaining over their situation.  In America today, Christians get put out if their latte is not made to their liking or if someone snatches their parking place at Wal-Mart.  The attitude is the best indicator of the present health of our faith and spiritual life.  I love the story of the little boy who visited his grandpa one afternoon.  As Grandpa fell asleep on the couch and the little boy thought it would be funny to smear Limburger cheese all over grandpa’s mustache. Later, when grandpa awoke, he couldn’t help but smell the cheese under his nose. Thinking the front room was the source of the smell, he headed into the kitchen to find the smell just as strong there.  Looking for relief from the stench, grandpa headed outside, took a whiff, and exclaimed, “the whole world stinks.”  Ironically, the smell was not coming from the front room, the kitchen, or the world, but from grandpa himself.  Our attitude is just like that – the source of a smelly attitude is never someone else.

Second, make sure you keep your song.  At midnight from deep within the prison walls, Paul and Silas began to pray and sing hymns.  It’s noteworthy that the other prisoners were listening to them because people around us are watching and listening as well to see how we will handle the adversity brought on by our faith.  The powerful praise and worship was followed by a prison shaking earthquake that caused all the prison doors to open.  We have to remember that the doors open after the praise and not before.  Don’t wait for the circumstances to change before you break out into song and praise.  Praise God in the midst of the trouble and watch His deliverance begin to flow.  It’ also noteworthy to mention that the deliverance of others (like the other prisoners) depends on our lifestyle of praise.

Third, regardless of the trouble and the setbacks you are facing, make sure you stay focused on your mission in the midst of the trouble.  Too often believers are oblivious to the needs around them because they are so dialed in to their own trouble.  Paul and Silas, despite their treatment, had the presence of mind to focus on the souls of the jailer and other prisoners.  Instead of killing himself in response to what looked like a jail break, the jailer found Jesus through the ministry of two men sensitive to the Holy Spirit despite the hardship they were experiencing.  How many ministry opportunities pass us by because we are consumed with our trouble, our challenges, and our hardships?  Let’s not teach the enemy he can shut down our ministry simply by stirring up a little trouble in our lives.  Choose to look for chance to bless others right there in the midst of your mess.

Yet Another Lesson From A Six Pound (Seven Pound) Toy Poodle

IMG_0111When appreciated, loved, and properly cared for, dogs pretty much live a charmed life.  Doggie agenda for the day: wake up, stretch legs, go potty, drink a little water, run around the room, eat, sleep, chew toy, go potty, sleep some more, give kisses, cheer for the Cardinals, repeat, etc. Through the years I’ve learned a lot from the tough life of our six pound (um, more like seven pounds these days) blonde toy poodle, and I’ve shared those lessons within this blog (search “lessons from a six pound toy poodle”).

Recently my wife and I were talking about the calm and total trust our small poodle exhibits in her daily routine.  Princess (her AKC registered name, but I have bestowed a litany of other names upon her such as PeePoo, Purty Girl, Isopurty, Jelly Belly, BeeBoo, Fluffy Butt, you get the idea), for example, never has a thought about whether the food bowl will be filled, if she will have water to drink, if someone will be getting up to take her out (that would be me), or if she will get any attention (you have probably already discerned, PeePoo gets little attention around our house).  Her faith and trust level is particularly strong when it comes to scoring dog treats.  Like clockwork, sometime in the middle of the evening Princess will stake a place in the floor in front of me and wait with piercing eyes of longing for her daily fix of mini milk bones. She will wait patiently for a few moments before breaking into a pouty whine to remind me she’s there.  The whine then morphs into a series of short barks to get my attention as she longs to hear those two amazing and powerful words, “doggy treats?” It works every time (and it will work on every single person in the house before the night is over).

Imagine how charmed our lives would be if we would learn to trust the Lord the way Princess trusts and expects us to take care of her.  She simply has no worries about her future in the Heinz household.  She does not sheepishly cower in shame or nonverbally apologize for boldly expecting her needs to be met.  There is no fretting about the future and no pining over the messes (and there have a been a few) of the past.  Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about ANYTHING, but in EVERYTHING by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” If the Lord is watching the sparrow and taking care of the Poo, you can have complete confidence and peace that He will take care of you. 

Resistance Is Not Futile

Borg 1If you’ve been exposed at all to the television or movie versions of the Star Trek productions you have become very familiar with the strange world of the part human, part machine colony of the Borg. Their ultimate goal is in assimilating others to be exactly just like them. The famous declaration of the Borg when challenged is to say, “resistance is futile.” This is exactly how the enemy works against the believer. He knows that if we resist him, he has to flee (James 4:7). Actually resistance is not futile – it’s the key to overcoming the devil every time.

The ultimate goal of the devil, then, is to get us into a position of non-resistance to his influence, his negativity, and his accusations. We all know that the greater one lives inside of us but if we, in the heat of battle, begin to stop resisting, we will be defeated every time. Because we are born of God, we have through faith everything we need to overcome this world because the victory that overcomes this world is our faith (1 John 5:4-5). But the key is to stand in this revelation and truth against the influence of the enemy and the circumstances in our lives that are running contrary to the Word of God. Even though we ARE overcomers, we can be overcome if we falter when it comes to resisting those things that Jesus died to redeem us from.

There are many things that subtly but effectively steer the believer towards non-resistance such as spiritual laziness (the lack of discipline to continue in prayer, worship, and Bible study), weariness (the effect of long protracted battles where one literally gets tired of fighting), and emptiness (we give everything we have in service scraping the bottom of the barrel instead of keeping the barrel full and giving out from the top). The more lazy, weary, or empty we become the less likely we are to stand and resist the enemy. The more non-resistant we become to the activity and agenda of the enemy, the more defeated we become. We have been redeemed from the curse according to Galatians 3:14, but the curse will still prevail and advance in our lives in an atmosphere of non-resistance. 

The reason for this is we are defeated by whatever we yield to in life (give up to, surrender to, relinquish to). According to James 4:7 we are to resist (withstand, strive against, oppose) the devil and his thoughts, but unfortunately, many believers forget about the first part of that verse that commands us first to submit to God. We cannot effectively resist the devil while we are actively resisting God. Make sure you eliminate every single area of non-compliance with God and His Word in your life if you want to see the devil flee. The other critical factor, according to 1 Peter 5:9, is the quality and level of our faith. We are told to resist him (the devil) steadfast in the faith. The quality and level of our faith determines our capacity and readiness to resist and continue resisting. The key to raising both the quality and the level of our faith is always more time in the Word because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word (Romans 10:17).

I love the story of Jehoshaphat in the Bible when he was facing an insurmountable alliance and attack of enemy forces in 2 Chronicles 20. His example shows us how to resist the enemy while under pressure. First, he immediately went to the Lord in prayer. Unfortunately, many believers today try everything else under the sun and only after every single other option has been exhausted without results, they turn to the Lord in prayer. It reminds me of what Winston Churchill said of Americans in light of World War II. He said, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.” Christians are a lot like that today, but prayer should be our FIRST resort not our last resort. Second, he gave his ear to the prophetic word of God. In this case, the Lord raised up a prophet in their midst to declare that the battle was the Lord’s and that they were to stand and in standing (resisting) they would see the victory. We may not all have a specific prophetic word in our situation, but we have something more sure and certain, the Word of God (2 Peter 1:19). Like the people in Jehoshaphat’s day, we need to believe the Word and in doing so we will be victorious. Finally, he released his people to sing and praise God in the midst of the battle. In fact, the singers and praisers were placed at the head of the army without weapons. In the natural this does not seem like a very good strategy for winning a war. In fact, it sounds like a recipe to lose any element of surprise and to precipitate a massacre. But the weapons we fight with are not carnal – they are mighty (2 Corinthians 10:4). Praise, in fact, is a supernatural weapon of our warfare that literally silences the foe and the avenger (Psalm 8:1-2). This actually brought confusion to the enemy’s camp and their ultimate defeat.

The enemy may try to tell you that it is futile to resist him, but according to the Word we know that if we will submit to God and stay strong in faith we will abide in a position of resistance to the enemy and in doing so he will have to flee. If you are feeling lazy, weary, or empty, get busy right now building up your resistance capacity by spending time in God’s Word and presence. Like Jehoshaphat, you too can believe God’s Word, stand, and watch the defeat of the enemy in your life.

Faith for Miracles

It is quite faith building and encouraging to know and understand that there is no heavenly timer on miracles. There is no day that miracles just ceased in the earth because the miraculous power of God is a reflection of His very nature and heart and not just a tool for proving divinity. There is no “day” of miracles, but there is a God of miracles, and He is very much alive and active in the earth today.

Galatians 3:3-5 teaches us that we receive the Spirit and see miracles among us because of faith. Romans 5:2 says plainly that we access the favor of God through faith. Hebrews 11:6 declares that anyone coming to the Lord must believe that He is (that He exists) and that He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him. Further, it is clear from Mark 6:5 and Matthew 13:58 that the presence of or lack of faith is ultimately the determining factor whether the miraculous power of God is released in our midst or not.

In dealing with the spirit of familiarity, contempt, and offense in his hometown, Jesus did not say that he was lacking supernatural power to get the job done. He did not say that the day of miracles was over or that it simply was not God’s will to do miracles. He did say that the thing stopping up the flow of miraculous power was their lack of faith. Because of this plain Biblical truth, we need to learn to stir up our precious and holy faith if we want to see more of God’s power at work among us. Again, this is not about proposing some formula for miracles, but providing a faith-filled and expectant atmosphere where miracles are more likely to happen. Our job is to charge the air with faith and dispel any doubt, fear, and unbelief from the environment. From the story of the paralytic brought to Jesus for spiritual restoration and physical healing in Mark, I want to share about the kind of faith that receives a miracle.

First, the faith that receives a miracle is a UNIFIED faith. The men who carried the paralytic had to be in one mind and one heart to get the job done. To be unified means to become a single unit. The paralytic together with each of these individuals had to be in agreement about what they were doing and why. Psalm 133 powerfully points out the impact of unity among the people of God. When we are in unity the anointing of God (God on flesh doing what flesh can’t do), fruitfulness, the blessing, and life are the results. So, get into agreement with other believers!

Second, the faith that receives a miracle is a TENACIOUS faith. These men faced many obstacles along the way including the journey to get to the house where Jesus was ministering. When they arrived there was no way to get into the house so, undaunted, the men went up to the roof carrying the paralytic, ripped open the roof and lowered the man into the presence of Jesus. A tenacious faith is a persistent, stubborn and obstinate faith that absolutely refuses to be denied and that no set back or challenge can quench. There will always be obstacles to receiving but we must continue busting through every barrier until we reach destination miracle. So, do not give up no matter what you face!

Finally, the faith that receives a miracle is a VISIBLE faith. James 2:18 indicates that faith should be so real and obvious that it is something shown through corresponding actions. To be visible means that it can be seen, that it is perceptible to the eye, apparent, obvious, and conspicuous. When faith is fully released it is observable. That’s why the Bible says in Mark 2 that Jesus literally saw their faith. This is nothing unique to this story. The Bible is filled with examples where the faith of individuals spilled over into visible action. Blind Bartimaeus, filled with faith, threw is cloak aside, went to Jesus, and his sight was restored (Mark 10:50). The man with the withered hand stretched out his hand and was healed (Luke 6:10). The lepers went to show themselves to the priests and were healed along the way (Luke 17:14). The woman with the issue of blood touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and was made whole (Mark 5:27-18). So, step out boldly and act on your faith!

Remember that our God is great and He does miracles. Remember also that He responds to the confidence, trust, and faith we place in Him. Make up your mind today to walk in a unified, tenacious, and visible faith and expect the Lord to move in your situation. For our God performs miracles and displays His power among the peoples (Psalm 77:14).

The Best of Years

Ministry and prophetic voices all over the land are declaring that 2011 will be both the best and worst of years. Malachi 3:18 explains that there will be a distinction between the righteous and the wicked: “And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those that serve God and those who do not.” What’s exciting for those that have ears to hear and eyes to see is that this is not the promise of a distinction or a manifestation to come some day in the sweet by and by, but the promise that the distinction will be clear, evident, and obvious this year. The good news is that this is an individual choice and decision. We determine whether 2011 will be the best of years of the worst of years for ourselves and for our families.

The word “distinction” means that there will be something plain and evident in the lives of faithful believers that will distinguish, separate, mark off as different, or identity them as distinct from those that choose to move away from the things of God in this season. Part of that distinction will manifest as God’s provision, empowerment, and assistance in every aspect of the believer’s life so that literally every thing is made “all right.” In the midst of all the fear, torment, and uncertainly right now, its’ exciting, encouraging, and faith-building to hear the prophetic voice echoing the Word of God that boldly promises, “…I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread” (Psalm 37:25).

The unique aspect about this prophecy for 2011 is that it indicates that the year will be extreme on both the best and worst ends of the continuum. 2011 will be extraordinary and extremely good for those that honor God and just the opposite for those that choose to dishonor Him. This means either an extremely fruitful, successful, and blessed year or an extremely barren, unsuccessful, and cursed year. Biblically, this concept is nothing new. By the Lord’s direction, Moses told the people of God in Deuteronomy 30:19, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life…”

I want to encourage you to focus on three powerful principles in 2011 or three ways that you will be choosing to have the best of years. The key is to absolutely INSIST on keeping these principles because the believers that insist on doing so (not might or if I get around to it), but insist on doing so will have the best possible year. Those that INSIST on ignoring these concepts or principles will find that 2011 will be the worst possible year.

First, no matter what you see, hear, or feel, INSIST on staying in faith this year. The key to staying in faith is keeping the Word of God going in your eyes, ears, and heart, and keeping that same Word coming out of your mouth in abundance. Remember that we cannot keep the contents of our hearts from coming out for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). We will all see and hear things this year that will try to pull us off of the Word of God and into distraction, doubt, fear, or unbelief. Make up your mind that you are going to stay focused on the Word of God regardless of what you see and hear going on all around you.

Second, INSIST on keeping the commandment to love no matter how you feel or how you perceive you are being treated. One of the devil’s choice weapons is to get God’s people, mad, upset, and offended with something or someone. The moment we come out of love this year we will disqualify ourselves from the best of years and slip into the worst of years. This means that the devil is going to work extra hard to get you put out, bitter, and offended. Make up your mind to stay in love and to forgive quickly and completely from the heart. I don’t care what has happened. I don’t care what has been said to you or about you. Nothing is worth you losing the blessing this year. Nothing is worth you losing the distinction that is promised to the covenant child of God this year! If you’ve been going down the road of bitterness, hard feelings, and offense, come to your senses now, stop, and turn around while the year is still young.

Finally, no matter what happens, INSIST on keeping and honoring the Word of God in every situation of life. To “honor” means to “give the greatest weight to” in life. It means that there is no voice more influential in your life than the Lord and His Word and this influence is proven by quick and lasting obedience to the principles of the Word of God. If there is a command to keep, a behavior to stop, or a correction to make you do so with bells on. 2011 is especially not the year to be ignorant of the Word, to hesitate when He tells you to act, or to continue obstinately down a direction or path when He has clearly redirected you. This is a year to know the Word and do the Word faithfully and consistently.

Refuse to Settle

Some people have the mistaken idea that faith is simply a life of pretend or pretense, but as Jerry Savelle used to say, “Faith does not pretend…faith attacks.” Faith is not tapping your slippers, closing your eyes, and pretending you are not facing a major challenge, setback, or disappointment. Faith does not deny the existence of financial failure, a physical sickness, or a troubled marriage. Faith acknowledges the existence of the issue but then proceeds to attack it with the Word of God and deny that obstinate situation permission to remain. The problem is that the enemy is very good at convincing us to accept limits, boundaries, and fences as unchangeable reality. Everything inside of us as believers should cry out, “don’t fence me in!”

We need to understand that the enemy would love for all of us to live far below God’s best, but I want to encourage you to not settle for less than what God’s Word says you have can have spiritually, relationally, physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. Matthew 11:12 teaches us that the kingdom of God suffers violence and the violent take it by force. Many assume this refers to an assault by the world or Satan on the kingdom of God. In reality it refers to the aggressive faith-filled stance of the believer to press in to the kingdom of God and everything it offers the believer.

One of the primary reasons Christians fail to live an extraordinary life in God – one that is beyond the usual, extraordinary, noteworthy, remarkable, uncommon, rare, phenomenal, and special – is that they are all too willing to settle. Any voice that compels you to settle for less is of the devil. In today’s blog I want to leave you with some keys that will empower you to resist the devil and and embolden you to refuse to settle for less than God’s best in your life:

First, James 4:7 teaches us what to do with the devil and his suggestions: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” One of the devil’s most effective tricks on the body of Christ is to get us in a position of what I call “non-resistance” to his wiles, schemes, lies, and agenda. If we resist rather than yield, he will have no choice but to flee from us every time.

Second, remember that your past does not equal your future. Let go of past mistakes so that you can reach for what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13-14). It’s hard to press forward for your future when you eyes are glued on the road behind you.

Third, open your heart and life for others to correct you when necessary because open rebuke is better than secret love. A word from a friend that really cares about us in due season can often mean the difference between success and failure. It takes a bold believer to speak into our lives and it takes a humble but sharp believer to listen to and receive that counsel.

Fourth, whatever you do, stay out of the pity party because when you are in pity you are not in faith. When you step in to pity, you step into a pit – a demonic trap of the enemy to hold you back. If we TRULY believe that God’s blessing is on our lives and operating to empower us to succeed and prosper, we would never fall into the trap of the pity party.

Fifth, find out what God’s Word says about your situation. Memorize it, study it, and confess that Word often. Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Revelation of God and His Word, on the other hand, bring us to a place of victory and success.

Sixth, accept the call, like Abraham, to be a blessing to others every day. It’s great to confess that the blessing is on you, but we all need to take the revelation of the blessing to the next level and make up our minds to not just possess the blessing, but to be a blessing – to be the kind of believer that empowers others to prosper and succeed.

Seventh, dream the biggest dream of your life. God’s Word says, “God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams” (Ephesians 3:20, MES). The lack of dreams and small dreaming is what ultimately holds the believer back (not the will or the willingness of our Lord). If you can grasp the dream, comprehend the dream, conceive the dream in your heart, you can see that dream come to pass. Dreams by their very nature take us beyond where we have been before – they are natural boundary breakers and fence crashers.

Finally, trust in the favor of God – that the favor of God is on your life in abundance. The favor of God is kind regard, friendly disposition, support, defense, vindication, promotion, justification, benevolence, acts of grace and good will, advantage, partiality, preferential treatment, and convenience afforded for our success. Favor is when people say, “no,” and circumstances say, “no,” but God says, “yes” (Jerry Savelle). Any believer can tap into the favor of God through faith (Romans 5:2). Favor is vital in hard times because it takes the boundaries and limitations off of our lives and enables us to go from ordinary to extraordinary.

Faith Flirts

Lt. Gen. James H. Doolittle

Whenever people hear the message of faith for the first time their hearts are usually encouraged and excited about the possibilities obtainable through God’s Word. As we listen to the uncompromised Word of God going forth we catch a glimpse of how life could be if we would begin to use the force of faith like a tool rather than as just a generic term to describe religion in general. The Scriptures teach that “all things are possible to him that believes” (Mark 9:23). Faith is the divine connection between where we are in life and where we could be. Faith is how we access the favor of God (Romans 5:2), the prescribed way for believers to live (Romans 1:17), and how we ultimately please God (Hebrews 11:6).

But when the reality of the lifestyle of faith sets in – that it takes more than faith to get the job done – that it requires time, love, patience, and doesn’t usually produce immediately or over night, people often lose their enthusiasm. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4). It is the key to the victorious life in God. I often liken the lifestyle of faith to a boxing ring. Well trained in faith we step into the ring to do battle. Paul called it fighting “the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). If we won’t get into the ring, or fight, or stay in the ring, we can never obtain the victory. Many people begin with good intentions but when they see the reality of faith they immediately try to climb out of the ring and back away from the message or the word of faith.

People who begin but do not hang in there on their walk of faith are what I call “faith flirts” – they flirt with the notion and concept of being a faith person but they do not persevere in their faith and are not invested over the long haul. If we can leave the lifestyle of faith then it was never a personal revelation to us. To “flirt” means to play triflingly and superficially without serious intentions as with a toy. It means to talk sweet nonsense, to touch a thing in passing, or to deal lightly, casually, or flippantly with a thing. The faith flirt plays with faith but never really decides to actually live consistently and enduringly by faith.

The faith flirts are relatively easy to spot. First, they are normally unstable and unsettled. Because they are not really walking in faith they do not possess the corresponding peace and rest that always accompanies the faith person. Second, they value spiritual experience over the Word. In fact, when a faith flirt hears about someone seeing Jesus, they invariable want to know what he looks like. The genuine faith person wants to know what he said. Experience, for the faith flirt, becomes more binding and authoritative than the written Word of God. Third, faith flirts are easily defeated and quick to give up. Where the faith person has formed a habit of fighting and winning, the faith flirt has developed the habit of tucking tail and running. Fourth they don’t ever seem to get results because they never persevere long enough to see the manifestation or the end of their faith. Finally, they are consistently ruled by their emotions. The faith person has a soul that is anchored in the truth of the Word of God, the highest reality in the universe. The faith flirt is anchored to the emotions and when the emotions change, they change. They live terribly inconsistent and flaky lives because they have no foundation of faith and can never have a foundation until they give more credibility to the Word than to their feelings.

I want to encourage you today to evaluate your walk and look for evidences of the faith flirt. If you are unstable, experience based, quick to quit, lacking results, or emotion ruled, acknowledge that, repent of it, and make up your mind to stop flirting with faith but take the faith plunge once and for all. You can quickly move from faith flirt to faithful by establishing your foundation in the Word of God. Instead of playing with the Word and faith, get serious about getting the Word in your eyes, in your ears, and down into your heart. The more diligent you are the stronger you will become.

In the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, President Roosevelt was looking for a way to respond decisively to the cowardly action of the Japanese Imperial Navy. A bold, unprecedented plan was presented to send sixteen medium range Army B-25 bombers off the aircraft carrier USS Hornet and bomb Tokyo and four other cities. Led by Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, the handpicked squadron headed out to sea and prepared to strike at the very heart of Japan. Before embarking on this dangerous mission, Doolittle told his airmen, “victory belongs to those that believe in it the most…that believe in it the longest… and we’re going to believe.” Doolittle’s Raiders successfully bombed Japan before running out of fuel and losing the bombers one by one trying to reach the mainline of China.

These brave army pilots knew the challenges, the risks, and the importance of the mission. They volunteered and accepted their role and likely fate. After leaving that flight deck early because a Japanese fishing boat spotted the American flotilla, they knew there was no going back and most likely not enough fuel to get to China after the bombing run. Faith people are the same way. They head out into the spirit realm with no plans for failure and no plans for turning back, and they execute until they achieve the objective. That is the essence and difference between the faith flirt and the faith person. Make a quality decision today, one from which there is no turning back, to live your life on the Word and to stay on that Word with a bulldog determination that says, “I cannot be defeated and I will not quit.”